This authentic Rum-Butter recipe (also known as ‘Hard Sauce’) is traditional in Cumberland, in the North-west of England (Lake District). It is very simple to make, but the exact origins of Rum Butter are shrouded in a bit of a mystery; no-one knows for sure who invented it, (while a lot of myths have grown up around it); but it does seem to have appeared first in Cumbria in the late 18th century (late 1700s).
By the time Queen Victoria came to the throne, in 1837, Rum Butter had become integral to every Christening Feast, where a bowl of Rum Butter was passed around the assembled gathering, with oat cakes, and also given as a gift to mother and child.
One of the most persistent myths surrounding Rum-Butter tells the tale of a woman who took a broken cask of rum, washed up on the Cumbrian coast from a smuggling ship wreck, who found that it had dripped into her store of sugar and butter on her larder shelf. Thus this happy accident created Cumberland Rum Butter. Most likely this is romantic nonsense, but it never-the-less illustrates how simple this dish is to make.
‘The North Lonsdale Magazine’, By James P. Morris, Published 1867
RUM-BUTTER AT CHRISTENINGS
The custom of providing rum-butter at christenings has generally been supposed to belong to the neighbouring county, at least most people seem to agree hereabouts that it is a “Cummerlan’ fashion”.
Rum Butter Recipe 1867
This remarkable and time-honoured compound was thus prepared. The butter was first melted (not boiled) in a brass pan, till the milk ran to the top, and the salt sank to the bottom. The floating ingredients were then skimmed off, and the butter poured off clear from the salt and sediment . A quantity of rum and sugar having been well beaten together in a bowl, with a little grated nutmeg, was then mixed with the butter, when all was gradually and carefully stirred, as the mixture cooled down, and until it was beginning to set. Prepared in this manner, it would keep for a very long period, so that few houses were without a pot of rum-butter at the appointed time.
Today we now know Rum-Butter as a Christmas favourite, a delicious accompaniment to mince pies and Christmas pudding. However, it is also very good at other times of the year … on toast, oatcakes, crackers, scones and fruit breads, or warmed and drizzled on vanilla ice cream.
‘Recipes Of Lakeland: Collected By Cumbria’, Published 1966
From readers of ‘Cumbria’ newspaper.
1. Cumberland Rum Butter
Ingredients: 1/4lb fresh butter; 1 lb soft brown sugar; nutmeg and mixed spice to taste; 3/4 wineglass rum
Method: Melt 1/4 lb of fresh butter, and then add other ingredients. Mix thoroughly. Place in a pretty bowl and sift sugar over it.
2. Rum Butter
Ingredients: 1lb brown sugar; 1/2lb butter; 1 wineglass rum; half nutmeg.
Method: Melt butter. Do not let it boil but “just soften” it, and beat in sugar. Stir in rum, a tablespoon at a time. Put the mixture into your best bowl and use when set.
Rum Butter Recipe
Sealed in an air-tight tub this will keep for over a month in a cool dark place, but not in the fridge, as the sugar will re-crystalize.
- 450g unsalted butter
- 680g natural brown sugar (demerara)
- 175ml rum
- 1/2 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
Melt the butter in a small saucepan on a gentle heat, add in the sugar, and beat until it begins to thicken for two minutes. Remove from the heat, allow to cool for two minutes, then stir in the rum (a little at a time) and the grated nutmeg. When everything is thoroughly mixed pour into a small sterilized air-tight jar.
If giving as gifts buy some small nice glass kilner type preserve jars and add a gift tag and a ribbon bow.